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Academic Structure

The University’s Academic Governance Structure is headed by the Senate.  The Senate is the academic authority of the University which, subject to the powers reserved for the Council, is responsible for promoting the academic work of the University in teaching, learning, and research and enterprise.  The Council has the ultimate authority, but it has to respect the views of the Senate in academic matters.

The Senate oversees the University’s academic management, including the curriculum and all aspects of quality and standards associated with the University as a degree-awarding body.  It has the power to make regulations, include those which (subject to the approval of the Council) delegate any of its powers.  Senate meetings concentrate on major issues of academic strategy, policy, priority and performance.

The definition, objectives, purposes and principles of academic governance at the OU are set out in the Framework of Academic Governance

The Senate has a membership of 102 with an academic majority.  It is chaired by the Vice-Chancellor and comprises ex-officio members such as the Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Executive Deans and some other officers, fifty-seven representatives of the academic and research staff, seven Associate Lecturers, six students and 14 academic-related staff.  It can co-opt members, such as the national directors, to fill gaps in experience.

The Senate constitution provides full details of its membership and terms of reference. The Powers of the Senate (extract from the University Charter and Statutes) are available within the Senate schedule of delegation.

Senate Minutes

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The Senate Subcommittees

The Senate is supported by a structure of specialist committees that advise the Senate in areas such as Curriculum and Qualifications, Learning, Teaching and Student Support, Research, and Quality Assurance and Enhancement, and that handle the more detailed business.  These are shown in the OU Academic Governance Structure Chart.

Faculty committees are committees of the Senate, although they normally report to the policy committees of the Senate.

Further information on the Senate and its subcommittees, together with papers and minutes of meetings, is available through the Formal Committees pages of the Governance intranet site.  Please note that members of the public will be unable to access this restricted area.

Governance Effectiveness Reviews

The effectiveness of the University’s governance structures and arrangements are kept under regular review.  This review has a two-pronged approach:

An annual effectiveness review (AER) appraises business and decision-making against the terms of reference for all University committees providing opportunity to consider and implement changes when required, and between major governance reviews.  A more detailed (major) review of effectiveness and performance benchmarked against guidance set out in external Codes of Governance, regulatory requirements and good practice elsewhere in the higher education sector is intended to take place every five years.

Academic Governance Reviews